John 17 sits alongside the other great chapters of the Bible such as Romans 8 and Psalm 23. Many people have sung its praises, including the puritans. Stephen Charnock wrote, “If any part of Scripture be magnified above another, this (John 17) seems to claim the pre-eminence.” A.W. Pink said that when John Knox was on his deathbed, he had this chapter read to him every day, and that Knox testified that it gave him great comfort and strength.
John 17 is a special chapter indeed. Of all the verses in this great chapter, verse 24 rises to the top. Thomas Manton wrote, “Every verse is sweet, but this should not be read without some ravishment and leaping of heart.” He also noted that another person has said that he wouldn’t want this verse left out of the Bible for all the world. What makes this verse so special? I will attempt to answer that question in this article and in the next one.
Jesus prays, “I desire…(ESV)” or in the words of the KJV, “I will…” Some puritans argued that Jesus is not asking for something, but declaring what he will do. Manton isn’t completely convinced of this view and acknowledges that the word might “bear a softer sense” in this verse because the same word is used to convey a desire or request in other passages (Mark 6:26; 12:38). On this understanding “it doth not express [Jesus’] authority so much as the full bent of his heart.” This is the proper interpretation. Jesus is sharing his heart’s desire with his Father in prayer. He is asking the Father to give him what he wants or desires. And what does Jesus want? Us. Verse 24 says that Jesus wants us, the people the Father has given to him, to be where he is. Jesus desires us.
John Piper’s most well-known book is probably Desiring God. In that book, Piper discussed how Christians long for God himself and how the “soul’s final feast” is “to see him and know him and be in his presence.” David exemplified this desire in Psalm 27. The one thing he asked for and the one thing that he sought was to dwell in the house of the Lord and gaze upon the beauty of the Lord all the days of his life. Our desire for God, however, is not unrequited. God desires us. Jesus asks and seeks for us. Indeed, he sought us before we sought him. If I were to write a book on John 17:24, I could call it “Desiring Us.”
Actually, I could write a book on the whole Bible called, “Desiring Us,” because the Lord’s desire for us is a thread that runs throughout Scripture. God saves us so that we might have fellowship with him (1 John 1:1-3). The heart of every biblical covenant is this: I will be your God and you shall be my people. When God redeemed his people out of Egypt and led them through the wilderness, he had them make a tent for him and place it in the middle of the camp. By this action, God was saying that he would dwell with his people and go wherever they go, even when they go into the wilderness. Alec Motyer put it this way: “…the Lord in effect said: If you are camping, I want to camp too!”
God calls us, his people, the apple of his eye (Deut. 32:10), his treasure (Ex. 19:5), his portion (Deut. 32:9), and his bride (Rev. 21:9). Those are all terms of endearment. They express God’s love for us and his desire to be with us. Revelation 21:3 declares: “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.”
Jesus desires us. Jesus, the Lord of lords and King of kings, wants you to be with him. That is what John 17:24 teaches us and that is why it should not be read “without some ravishment and leaping of heart.”